Facing family conflict at Christmas

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Health Assured team

29 November 2023

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right?

Christmas is meant to be a time full of happiness, family, friends, and giving to those we love. It’s a time to reflect on the year and feel grateful for what you have in life.

Yet, for many, Christmas is a time for family tension, conflict and arguments that can feel inevitable and unavoidable.

Why do many experience Christmas conflict?

Christmas can feel overcrowded, overwhelming, and frustrating for many, especially when it comes to being around family members. According to a survey from Relate, 44% of UK adults have rowed with a family member during the festive period.

There are pressures and expectations to have the tallest tree, the best Christmas decorations, the tastiest turkey, and to be the best gift giver. But all of this comes with a lot of effort and can disrupt mental wellness.

Generational differences bring different social and political opinions which commonly leads to heated discussions and tipsy arguments.

The dreaded question of do you have a boyfriend or girlfriend yet? When are you going to propose? Is there a baby on the way? Fill many of the younger family members with dread, asking themselves why their relatives can’t just mind their own business.

Many feel burnt out during the holiday period with one in three adults suffering from ‘Holiday burnout’ and heightened anxieties stemming from family conflicts.

How to combat family conflict at Christmas?

  1. Get Support

Speaking to someone who is not involved in the family conflict can be extremely liberating and can offer different perspectives.

Take a step back if it all gets too much and speak to a trusted friend or family member- not one you are having conflict with.

Discussing your grievances can give you a sense of relief and headspace, and you may even develop ideas to solve the family conflict.

Speaking to a counsellor is a fantastic way to aid support and Health Assured offers an Assistance Programme that provides 24/7 (including key holiday dates like Christmas Day). Counsellors will explore different perspectives and ideas to make you feel less anxious about Christmas with the family.

  1. Stop trying to make Christmas perfect

With the constant barrage of Christmas films and songs boasting about family togetherness, perfectly wrapped presents under the tree, and effortlessly cooked dinners, it’s no wonder expectations at Christmas are so high.

Leave the extravagant expectations for the Christmas movies.

Try to set realistic expectations for yourself and your family, especially if you are hosting.

If they complain, take a deep breath, and realise it doesn’t need to be perfect and your family doesn’t have to like it. You have tried your best and that is all you can do.

So what if your nan thinks the turkey is dry? Or if your aunt is complaining about the wrapping paper colour. Take a deep breath, ignore them and enjoy yourself.

Life isn’t perfect and sometimes that is what makes it fun and exciting, this should be the same for Christmas.

  1. Accept that the only thing you can control is your reaction

There is very little you can do when an argument erupts, or someone is pushing you too far with backhanded ‘banter.’

What you can control is your reaction.

If you feel like you are about to retaliate, take the dog for a slow walk, have a longer-than-necessary toilet break, or excuse yourself to take a ‘phone call’ in one of the bedrooms upstairs.

Whatever your excuse is make sure you give yourself enough time to calm down, so you are able to forget about the conflict and enjoy your well-deserved Christmas break.

  1. Get Active

Being crammed together in the house with screaming kids, barking dogs, and arguing adults is not what most people want for Christmas day. The best way to fix this problem? Get out of the house and start moving.

Christmas walks are a staple activity for many families during the festive period. Getting out of the house and feeling the fresh air will cool off any grievances or annoyances that have accumulated.

At the very least it will sober everyone up.

Support for your employees during the holiday season

Our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) provides guidance and supports your employees with their mental health in the workplace and in life. We can help you create a safe, productive workspace that supports all.

We support employees mental wellbeing with any problems they might be facing in their professional or personal lives with our 24-hour counselling helpline.


Find out more about EAPs



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